Australia seal supremacy
A magnificent innings from Michael Hussey, a top-notch allround display from Shane Watson and a searing first spell from Brett Lee were the main talking points as Australia pulverized an abysmal World XI side to clinch the Super Series by an emphatic 3-0 margin. Rated underdogs heading into the series, Australia underlined just why they're on another planet as a one-day side, skittling out the World XI for just 137 to complete a 156-run rout.
Lee did the early damage to finish with stunning figures of 4 for 30, and there were four scalps as well for Watson, whose dismissal of Andrew Flintoff and spectacular run-out of Virender Sehwag stymied any faint hopes the World XI had of overhauling a daunting total. Watson had played his part with the bat too, smashing a splendid run-a-ball 66 as he and Hussey added 145, including 95 from the final 10 overs.
That partnership turned a game which appeared to be in the balance when Muttiah Muralitharan and Daniel Vettori picked up three wickets for five runs in just 19 balls. With Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds and Damien Martyn back in the warren in quick succession, a collapse was on the cards, but Hussey and Watson, first with cleverly placed singles and twos and then with mighty hits to the fence, thwarted the World's finest with such composure and aplomb that recent predictions of a winter of Australian discontent seemed like the ravings of madmen.
Having runs to play with, Lee's early incisions made the top order resemble a hapless pub side. He was on a hat-trick and the World XI tottering at 27 for 4 when Flintoff walked out, right wrist taped after being struck by a fierce Ponting drive that forced him off the park when bowling. He and Sehwag added 60 in just 7.1 overs, reminding the Sunday crowd of the talent in the ranks. Unfortunately for those craving a genuine contest, Watson sneaked one through Flintoff's defence to leave the World side at 87 for 5, and well on the slippery slope to defeat.
Their pursuit of 294 had started disastrously, with Chris Gayle helping on a 145.8 kmph special from Lee, and when the in-form Kumar Sangakkara impetuously skied a pull off McGrath, the portents were ominous. Jacques Kallis and Brian Lara had failed to ignite in the opening two matches, and any thoughts of stroke-filled explosions were ruthlessly quelled in a Lee burst that left World XI supporters stunned.
With the innings in disarray, Sehwag - who had been put down by Michael Clarke at point off McGrath when he had made just two - decided to back his instincts, clattering McGrath over the off-side cordon for two fours before skimming one over cover for six. Flintoff joined in the fun with two meaty swipes off Nathan Bracken, who went for 29 in two utterly radar-less overs, as the best of the rest gave a fleeting glimpse of what they were capable of.
After Ponting won his third straight toss, Adam Gilchrist had set the tone with another thrilling cameo. Makhaya Ntini had raised visions of an improved performance by snaffling Clarke early, but with Shaun Pollock struggling with no-balls and looking increasingly pedestrian, there was no halting the Australian momentum. Gilchrist and Ponting worked the ball around, and when Ntini dropped one in far too short, Gilchrist smacked it nonchalantly over midwicket for six.
The game sparked to life in Ntini's next over as Ponting - who had flicked one over midwicket and cut another past point for fours - was caught palpably plumb in front. Aleem Dar refused to refer to the third umpire, and appeared to indicate that the ball would have passed over the stumps, giving Ponting - then on 19 - the slice of luck he needed to plunder more boundaries. With Martyn swinging his bat with the cavalier air of a man giving an exhibition, Ponting focussed his attention on Australia's Ashes tormentor, Flintoff. Each time Flintoff dropped short, the savage pull came into play, and when he erred on the side of fullness, the flick through or over midwicket exacted a heavy toll.
To exacerbate the World XI's woes, Flintoff was then forced off for treatment on his wrist, and having seen the back of what one fan called Pommie Granite, Ponting then lofted one back over Kallis's head to raise his 50. A century appeared to be his for the taking until Murali chipped in with a bit of magic.
Hussey and Watson, however, had no intention of surrendering the initiative, plundering the bowling as it grew increasingly ragged once Murali and Vettori had finished their 20 overs for combined figures of 3 for 72. Fielders were too often caught on their haunches, catches went down or were taken off no-balls, and Pollock, Ntini and Gayle got a real pasting at the death. There was even time for Hussey to thump the steel ceiling with a steepling hit off Ntini, surely the emblematic moment of a day when awesome Australia truly raised the roof.
Michael Clarke lbw Ntini 3 (15 for 1)
Trapped palpably in front by one that shaped back in
Adam Gilchrist c and b Pollock 32 (58 for 2)
An ugly hoick that took an age to come back down into the bowler's hands
Ricky Ponting c Lara b Muralitharan 68 (143 for 3)
Too early into the pull, an easy low catch to midwicket
Andrew Symonds c Sangakkara b Muralitharan 1 (146 for 4)
Attempted to cut the doosra, thin edge behind
Damien Martyn lbw Vettori 33 (148 for 5)
Played all across one that struck him right in line. Referred to the third umpire, who confirmed the umpire's suspicions. The first such dismissal in this series
Chris Gayle b Lee 0 (0 for 1)
A thin inside-edge onto the stumps
Kumar Sangakkara c Martyn b McGrath 13 (20 for 2)
Top-edged an attempted pull to silly mid-on
Jacques Kallis c Hussey b Lee 2 (27 for 3)
Fended a bouncer up to square leg
Brian Lara c Gilchrist b Lee 0 (27 for 4)
Edged the first ball he faced, caught after a bit of juggling behind the stumps
Andrew Flintoff b Watson 21 (87 for 5)
Played all around a straight one
Virender Sehwag run out (Watson) 37 (99 for 6)
Stunning athleticism from Watson who scampered down the pitch and dived full-length to stay ahead of a tardy Sehwag
Rahul Dravid c Martyn b Lee 16 (119 for 7)
Too late on the pull against another express delivery from Lee, tame catch to mid-on
Daniel Vettori c Clarke b Watson 0 (120 for 8)
Sharp catch taken at point
Shaun Pollock c White b Watson 8 (137 for 9)
Top-edged a pull, White takes a superb catch running in from fine leg
Shahid Afridi c McGrath b Watson 16 (137 all out)
Pings one straight to McGrath who ran in from long-on
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Cricinfo